Last weekend marked the end of Daylight Savings Time, a centuries old idea that was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin as a way for Parisians to economize on their use of candles. While we have moved far beyond the need for candles, the tradition of Daylight Savings Time remains with us to this day.
Despite the fact that the majority of the world follows a similar system, many are left wondering why we go through the hassle. Wouldn’t it be better to have have an extra hour of sunlight year-round?
In order to understand why we follow Daylight Savings Time, let’s take a look at some of the most common justifications as to why we adjust our clocks twice a year.
1. Energy Savings
Adjusting our clocks twice per year saves energy, or so says a benchmark study conducted by the Department of Transportation in 1975. According to the study, Daylight Savings Time cuts the nation’s electricity usage by up to 1% per day. And with over 117 million households in the United States, even a 1% cut in usage adds up to substantial savings. Despite the fact that more recent studies have disputed the findings of the 1975 Department of Transportation study, the United States continues to enforce Daylight Savings Time.
2. Public Health
Many have argued that, in addition to saving energy, Daylight Savings Time provides a substantial benefit to public health. According to studies conducted by both the United States and Great Britain, adding an extra hour of sunlight to the day reduces traffic accidents by a little over 1%. This statistic, however, is offset by the fact that traffic and pedestrian accidents increase more than 1% when we move our clocks back one hour, as we did last weekend. Pedestrians are three times more likely to be struck by a motor vehicle in the weeks directly following a change in DST than in the weeks prior. If you are planning on exercising or walking during the evening hours after the beginning or end of Daylight Savings Time, you may want to consider wearing highly reflective, visible clothing or wear a light. Items such as a jacket with reflective taping or a safety light arm band will help you become more visible to passing motorists.
3. Longer Days for Work and Play
The most common reason for Daylight Savings Time, however, is simply due to the fact that people prefer an extra hour of sunlight during the warm summer months. By adding an extra hour of sunlight during the summer, DST also provides additional benefit to summer- centric businesses, who see a marked increase in customer volume due to the added hour of sunlight. Many jobs that can only be completed during the summer months also benefit a great deal from the extra hour of sunlight.
The reasons above should provide a little clarity as to why we are forced to adjust our clocks twice per year. And while some of the reasons may seem a bit convoluted, Daylight Savings Time isn’t likely to go away any time soon.